Union need Mwanga to pick up pace

The Union's Danny Mwanga, who formed a productive partnership with Sebastien Le Toux last season, has had to adjust to a new role with the arrival of established striker Carlos Ruiz.
The Union's Danny Mwanga, who formed a productive partnership with Sebastien Le Toux last season, has had to adjust to a new role with the arrival of established striker Carlos Ruiz.
Posted: April 08, 2011

The Union have scored just two goals in their first three Major League Soccer games this season, and for a team known for its attacking style the offense will have to improve.

That's no major revelation.

One of the biggest factors will be the development of Danny Mwanga. Just like last season, when the soon-to-be 20-year-old forward was the first overall selection in the MLS SuperDraft, Mwanga has gotten off to a slow start.

He didn't play much at the beginning of last year, but he has appeared in all three games, making two starts this season.

With newcomer Carlos Ruiz as a target player up top, the situiation has forced Mwanga to adjust to a new style. Last season Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux displayed tremendous chemistry playing off one another. This year Le Toux has played more as a withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder, but it has been an adjustment.

In three games totaling 160 minutes, Mwanga is looking for his first score and has managed just one shot on goal.

"Right now for me, it is just trying to work together," Mwanga said. "We have played three [MLS] games, and it's a long season. There are a lot of games to get better."

Despite his draft status, the Union have made Mwanga earn every single minute of playing time. Even in Wednesday's penalty-kick loss to D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup, he wasn't inserted until the 73d minute.

During Saturday's 1-0 loss to the host Los Angeles Galaxy, Mwanga was replaced at halftime by Keon Daniel.

"Danny wasn't having his best game, and we have guys on the bench who we felt could change the game," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said.

Mwanga has never made waves about playing time, and he's not about to now. But he was naturally frustrated to get pulled against the Galaxy.

"Obviously you want to stay on the field and try to help the team, but we were struggling for a result," Mwanga said. "I understand the tactical change, and we took control of the midfield. You want to stay, but, at the same time, I trust the guys out there, and the decision was made to help the team win."

A year ago, Mwanga had seven goals and four assists, but he didn't score his first until the seventh game, a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas.

He is explosive with the ball and dangerous in the open space. It's now a matter of developing the same chemistry with Ruiz that he had last season with Le Toux.

"Danny's a great player, and he will make the adjustments," Le Toux said.

Hackworth cautions that Mwanga, for all the buildup, won't turn 20 until July 17.

"We all have this idea he is a seasoned vet, and the fact is that he is only 20 years old and still has a lot to learn and a long way to go before reaching his full potential," Hackworth said. "He has a steeper hill to climb, in that he has to figure out these little nuances, things that Ruiz and [Le Toux] know from just their experience alone."

For the Union to be a true MLS playoff contender, the Mwanga of last season will have to resurface.


Read The Inquirer's online soccer report at http://go.philly.com/tgk


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

 

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